Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency Links

 

Personal: Transportation

Ethanol

What is ethanol?
Benefits
Applications
Availability and Cost
Safety and Performance
Research
Government Programs and Regulations
Links

Benefits

Environmental

Ethanol is a renewable fuel because it is produced from biomass. Ethanol also burns more cleanly and completely than gasoline or diesel fuel.

Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions because the grain or other biomass used to make the ethanol absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows. Although the conversion of the biomass to ethanol and the burning of the ethanol produce emissions, the net effect can be a large reduction in GHG emissions compared with fossil fuels such as gasoline. The reduction depends on the feedstock and the production processes used to make ethanol.

Low-blend ethanol from corn produces about 3 to 4 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. Low-blend made from wood or agricultural cellulosic materials would produce 6 to 8 percent fewer emissions compared with gasoline.

Societal and economic

Ethanol contributes to regional economic growth and job creation, particularly in rural communities. There is great potential to capitalize on ethanol fuel because Canada has the forest resources and cropland needed to support the production of ethanol feedstocks. The development of a substantial ethanol industry would potentially mean new markets for Canadian biomass, agriculture and forestry. It would create construction and operations jobs at ethanol production plants and help strengthen and diversify rural economies.

Canadian farmers are becoming increasingly aware of this new market opportunity. Some have formed cooperatives to grow crops intended specifically as a feedstock for ethanol production. A 100-million-litres-per-year wheat-based ethanol production plant requires around 300, 000 tonnes of feed grain per year and an estimated 250, 000 acres to produce the feedstock. A plant this size would consume about 700 acres worth of production per day.

Ethanol production also offers opportunities to expand cattle feedlot operations. Large volumes of distiller's grain, a high-protein feed ingredient, are generated as a co-product of ethanol production.

As processes are further developed to manufacture ethanol from forest feedstock, such as wood waste, ethanol production will also create new sources of revenue for Canada's forest industry.